NordForsk thrilling initiative

“The creation of Nordforsk is one of the most thrilling initiatives in Nordic cooperation over the next year”, says Per Unckel about the organization that replaces NorFA January 1st 2005.
The Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers speaks eagerly about research and innovation as main keys to develop the Nordic countries into a competitive region together with the Baltic States and North West Russia. He sees Nordforsk as a key instrument of doing that.

“The competition is hard, and we risk that main research investments are being pulled towards the large nations, unless we manage to show that we are as interesting as they are. Each Nordic country is too small to win this competition, and that is why we have to cooperate”, says Unckel who underlines Nordforsk’s coordinating role.

“Nordforsk has to be anchored strongly in the national research priorities, and the organisation must never leave these priorities. Nordforsk is not going to be a research council at a Nordic level, rather a coordinator encouraging the national research councils to give priority to Nordic collaboration.” When asked if the days of Nordic collaboration is over in a more and more integrated Europe, Unckel protests enthusiastically.

- In an enlarged EU with 25 member states there is a great need for smaller collaboration areas. A large EU like this invites both to collaboration and competition. The Nordic countries must be able to assert themselves in this competition, Unckel says. What the Nordic Area for Research and Innovation, NORIA, will look like in ten years, is not even possible for Per Unckel to know. But he surely has the vision of it.

There are two pillars in this vision: research and innovation. The ambition is that the Nordic countries will appear as one region, and that we will be able to make use of the differences in the infrastructure of the various countries. In addition, we have to be better at connecting research and innovation; that is make knowledge into business. In the Nordic countries, we are not clever enough at that at all.

Unckel underlines that it is up to the management and the board of the new organisation to decide how Nordforsk is going to work, but ensures that the work of NorFA to a large extent is to be carried on.

“Research education is one example that without doubt will be a part of the work of Nordforsk. Research education is both educating researchers, but also giving room for young researchers, and both of them are crucial factors in creating advanced research”, Unckel says. He means the work done by NorFA is the foundation upon which Nordforsk is being built.

“NorFA has shown that Nordic collaboration on research and research education is possible, and the organisation has a very good reputation. Without NorFA, we had not been able to create Nordforsk.
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